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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Singaporean biopharmaceutical company SciGen Limited will build a new research and development center in Rehovot, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said Monday hoping to use the announcement to leverage similar interest from the list of foreign visitors at the Biomed Israel 2006 conference which opened in Jerusalem this week.
"We faced tough competition from Singapore and India but we were determined to bring this investment to Israel," said Rachel Roei, director of the Investment Promotions Center at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. "In the end it was the capabilities of our man power that won them over and influenced their decision to build the center here."
Roei told The Jerusalem Post that SciGen will not receive any tax breaks or other incentives associated with similar foreign investment projects in Israel, because the center is not being built in the periphery areas.
SciGen wanted to be near the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, to benefit from the influence of the people in the area, she said.
The company's first R&D investment in Israel will amount to over $10 million spread over a three-year period when the facility is expected to be working at full capacity. While the company currently employs five people in Israel, Roei said that number was expected to grow to between 20 and 30 in the initial stages of the project.
The center will serve as a production and development site for a molecular vaccine against Hepatitis B, which SciGen had previously bought the rights to from Israeli start-up Bio-Technology General (Israel) Ltd.
While SciGen founder and CEO Saul Mashaal notified the investment center of his decision to invest in Israel a few weeks ago, he gave the center the go ahead to make its plans public Monday, coinciding with the opening of Israel's largest life sciences conference.
The Investment Center's Roei said she hopes the investment will encourage the impressive list of foreign delegates at the conference to follow suit.
"You always look at your peers and Mashaal is well known among the delegates here," she said. "Good clients bring other good clients."
The three-day conference is being attended by approximately 500 overseas delegates, including groups from Taiwan, France, Korea, and Italy and representatives from leading companies in the life sciences sector including Novartis and General Electric.
Roei said the life sciences industry is playing an increasingly prominent role in attracting foreign investment to Israel, noting that around 34% of all venture capital investment in 2005 was in that sector.
She added that the investment center is expecting an increase in direct investments to Israel this year, from the $5.7 billion the country attracted in 2005.